Strangely haunting Blitz-based ballet

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella
Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, reviewed by Hannah Richardson

Twenty years on from its premiere in London’s West End, Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella is on tour at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, following a seven-week season at Sadler’s Wells.

Having adored the previous Matthew Bourne ballets we’ve been fortunate enough to have come to MK in recent years – Sleeping Beauty and The Red Shoes – I was really looking forward to this one, but I came away feeling it wasn’t my favourite.

Having said that, I then found myself temporarily unable to sleep, haunted by some of the moving images from the show. So clearly Bourne’s choreography had worked its magic on me at a subconscious level.

Although it’s based on the traditional Cinderella story, the production is set in the 1940s during the London Blitz.

As in the fairytale, Cinders is a put-upon skivvy, at the beck and call of her unpleaseant step-family, but in place of Prince Charming we have Harry, an injured pilot, and a male angel replaces the Fairy Godmother.

There was a local theme to Tuesday’s first night. Dancing the leading role, to great audience acclaim, was Leighton Buzzard’s own Cordelia Braithwaite, while Harry was played by Will Bozier and the Angel by Paris Fitzpatrick, both of whom trained at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Talented Cordelia shares the prima ballerina spot with Ashley Shaw, who danced so divinely in last year’s The Red Shoes.

I found Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at times confusing, and hard to piece together what was ‘real’ and what was dream sequence.

But I think my main issue with this production was the darkness of it, with muted colours throughout.

This was only to be expected during the first act, with Cinders drably dressed in the starkly dingy family home.

But I expected a dramatic colour shift in in Act Two, when the action moves to the glamorous Cafe de Paris, venue for ‘the ball’. Sadly, the opportunity for a gorgeous array of colourful costumes was passed over, in favour of what appeared to be a ‘ghost dance’, following the catastrophic bombing of the Cafe de Paris.

To be fair, Cinderella’s own white ballgown was glorious, and the total scenery collapse after the bombing was devastatingly spectacular and deeply disturbing.

Then in the final act we were plunged back into greyness, with the action taking place on the streets of bombed-out London and in a bleak convalescent home.

I just would have liked at least a bit more glamour amid the bleakness.

But despite my reservations and the show not being quite what I expected, it has lingered in my imagination much more than I expected and I’ll still be beating a path to MK for any future Matthew Bourne offerings.

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